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청개구리 (The Green Frog) — Korean Folk Tale

Posted By Seira Tanaka On May 16, 2012 @ 6:30 am In Earth cycle,general,Narrative,Tales /märchen | Comments Disabled

My informant told me about a story he had heard in Korea, told to him by a teacher when he was in elementary school:

“Once, there was a frog. A green frog, I guess, or–never mind, it doesn’t really matter. Just a frog. Uh, this frog was really disobedient and never listened to his mom. So if she told him to go one path, he’d go on the other one, and if she told him to shower he wouldn’t, and stuff like that. He just, like, does the opposite of whatever she says. A really mean frog kid. Anyway, so the mom is on her deathbed or something, and she thinks like, because he’s always done the opposite of whatever she says, she tells him to bury her in the ground so that he’ll take the opposite and bury her in the ocean, you know? She actually really wants to be thrown in the ocean, but she tells him the opposite. And so she dies, but uh, the frog kid feels guilty for all the crap’s he done in the past and chooses that moment of her death to decide to do exactly as she says. Which uh, sucks, obviously. So he buries her in the ground thinking he’s finally done the right thing when he’s making this huge mistake that’ll make her spirit or soul or whatever suffer forever. [Silence] And that’s supposed to be why when it rains, the frogs cry. Like, the rain reminds them of the ocean which reminds them of the mother that never got buried where she wanted to be. And they get sad, and they cry.”

My informant said that it was most likely a story disseminated to Korean children in order to instill obedience, to parents and elders at a young age. The tying of the story to the frogs’ crying is mainly a way to connect it to reality and make it seem more believable. That the wayward actions of one frog had caused such collective sadness in the entire frog community also seems to imply that a child’s disobedience to his or her parents is a massive enough act of disrespect that it can tear a hole in the fabric of society. Korean children, my informant said, are thus educated from a young age to respect not just their parents, but all of their elders, through this and other stories.

I found it interesting that this particular story, the one that this informant remembered, was one that had used sentiment and empathy to convey its message to its audience. My informant said that he had heard many stories too, of children being kidnapped by monsters in the night if they disobeyed their parents, but that “The Green Frog” was always the one that stuck with him. Instead of using intimidation and fright tactics, this folk tale trusts in a children’s love for their parents, and evokes its moral only indirectly, implying, you wouldn’t want to make your parents sad, would you? This was probably the reason why, my informant said, that this folk tale has always been one of the ones he has remembered over the years.


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